Updated 9/22/2013 at 3:15 PM ET. Vernon Davis deleted from tight end ranks.
Anyone who’s been at this for longer than a minute knows that fantasy football fates are often, if not always, decided by injury. Invariably, there will be a stretch of the season that’s more about “who has the most warm competent bodies” than “who has the most talent.” It’s just that, typically, it doesn’t get here until about Week 9 or 10, not Week 3. Alas, here we are with the fantasy football ocean already littered with “questionable” or “game-time decision” icebergs.
Among the walking wounded are Ray Rice, Steven Jackson (out), Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Eddie Lacy (out), Maurice Jones-Drew, Reggie Bush and Roddy White, just to name a few. That means “hard-decision time” is here less than two weeks after the season’s first Sunday.
Rice is shaping up as the toughest call of all. “Day to day” with a left hip flexor strain, Rice isn’t going to practice this week, and will likely come down to a Sunday morning decision. If he’s active, he’ll be an extremely dicey play, and almost certainly on a snap count. If he sits? Things actually get far less complicated. Rice, bench. Bernard Pierce, RB2.
We’ve been talking Pierce up as one of the league’s top handcuffs since the middle of last season, but Sunday would be the first chance he’s had to really stretch his legs outside of last Week 17, where the Ravens rested their starters after two series. Although Pierce is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, that number remains an extremely healthy 4.64 when expanded to include all 175 of his career totes. Film study reveals a player who hasn’t necessarily struggled this season, but has simply run into brick walls. The Broncos zeroed in on the box after Baltimore lost deep threat Jacoby Jones in Week 1, while the Browns have one of the league’s most talented front sevens. The yardage is going to come.
Pierce has uncommon vision for a second-year back, and doesn’t waste steps after taking the rock, hitting the hole extremely quickly. He almost always gets what’s blocked, and oftentimes more. He’s a power runner who makes a point of not leaving yards on the field. In the Texans, he’s facing a run defense allowing 99.5 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. They’re respectable numbers until you realize the Texans have only dealt with the Chargers’ muddled backfield and Tennessee’s predictable run-heavy attack. Pierce probably isn’t going to go off for five yards per carry if he gets the start, but something like 21/90/1 is well within reach. That would make him an RB2 in any week, and the best bet of this week’s army of fill-ins.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $25,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 3. It's $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
Week 3 Quarterbacks
QB Notes: Peyton Manning has the best matchup, but the problem is, it’s almost too good. By the time the middle of the third quarter rolls around, the Broncos should be taking the air out of the ball in the game that has all the hallmarks of a 31-10 final. Ergo, Aaron Rodgers gets the top spot despite a much tougher opponent. … Owners are predictably worried after Colin Kaepernick went into the Seattle thunderdome and posted a 0:4 TD:turnover ratio, but Jim Harbaugh isn’t. "I'm not disappointed in the way Colin played, at all," Harbaugh said Sunday. "He did what he could." We agree. It’s not like Kaepernick played well, but his nightmare night had far more to do with just how well the Seahawks played than anything else. Kaep was similarly disappointing in Seattle last Week 16, but followed it up with an easy, breezy beatdown of the Cardinals in Week 17. Now back home in San Francisco, he’s going to find life much easier against the Colts’ far-from-imposing defense.
The Lions look like the same old baffling Lions of 2012, but Matthew Stafford is going to have a field day against the first defense to allow over 1,000 yards in its first two games since 1967. … Michael Vick is the No. 3 fantasy quarterback through the first two games of the Chip Kelly era. … Russell Wilson has just two total touchdowns, but it’s had everything to do with the Seahawks’ schedule (1ET road opener for a West Coast team against a tough Panthers defense, San Francisco) and little to do with his play. Expect Sunday to serve as a big-time corrective. The Jaguars are going to be like prey in the Colosseum. … Robert Griffin III’s 649 yards passing look good on paper, but a staggering 489 of them have come in the second half of games in which the Redskins were not competitive. RGIII has only 25 yards rushing after averaging 54.3 per game in 2012. He’s just a borderline QB1 until he proves he’s all the way back. … It’s not like the 49ers are a good matchup for Andrew Luck, but they’re not prohibitive. The Niners are just 13th in yards allowed (675), and permitted 333 yards through the air in Week 1 against the Packers at home.
Eli Manning leads the league with seven turnovers through two weeks, while the Panthers are tied for ninth in takeaways with three. … Tom Brady: QB2 for Week 3? As crazy as it sounds, no one who saw last Thursday’s game would think it’s crazy. Although Brady is unlikely to be plagued by another biblical plague of drops, it’s not as if the lightbulb is suddenly going to come on for painfully raw rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. Facing a run-erasing defense and the specter of Darrelle Revis covering Julian Edelman, it’s going to be another long week for one of the greatest players in league history, even if Rob Gronkowski (back) makes his long-awaited return (which isn’t likely). Brady will probably be back near the top of the quarterback rankings sooner than you think, but Week 3 is not the time.
Your No. 4 fantasy quarterback through two weeks? Brees? Ryan? Romo? Try Philip Rivers. It’s true, but it’s also true that 68.2 percent of his yards and four of his seven scores came against the Eagles’ swinging-gate defense. There’s no doubt that new coach Mike McCoy has added a little shine to his previously worn-down quarterback, but Rivers isn’t going to suddenly be a diamond, particularly without Malcom Floyd for Week 3. Maybe Rivers isn’t done, after all, but he’s also not “back.” … In some ways, Jay Cutler’s Week 2 was just like the seemingly endless number of inept disasters he suffered under Lovie Smith. There was the fumble six after he held onto the ball for too long, the tipped-ball interception he threw on first-and-goal from the one-yard line and forced attempt to Brandon Marshall that Vikings S Harrison Smith saw coming from a mile away. But make no mistake: This is not the same Cutler. With the Bears playing a more competent brand of offense under new coach Marc Trestman, Cutler’s 68.1 completion percentage is 10 points higher than it was last season, while his 7.39 YPA is nearly half a yard better. He has five touchdowns after throwing just 19 in all of 2012. Cutler is a gunslinger. That means there’s always going to be the occasional ill-advised decision. But after years of being set up to fail in mind-numbing schemes behind sieve-like offensive lines, Cutler is finally in a position to succeed, and he looks ready to take advantage of it.
In theory, hot-starter Alex Smith has a dream matchup in the Eagles’ 30th ranked defense. But if there’s one player we don’t expect to go off in what will almost inevitably be a sloppily-played Thursday nighter, it’s he of the 5.7 YPA and 5.5 aDOT. Smith has attempted exactly two passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air. No matter the opponent, he’s not a compelling QB2. … Hamstrung by a disastrous supporting cast, Ben Roethlisberger might find himself in the 20s more often than not this season. … Terrelle Pryor was efficient, but far from electric against the Jags’ undermanned defense Sunday. How he fares against the Broncos’ far more formidable unit Monday will be a telling bellwether for his future performance. … It’s going to be a rough day for each of E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith in their head-to-head showdown. … Long may you run, Chad Henne, long may you run.
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